In The Know: OU President Boren intends to retire in June after 23 years

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

OU President Boren intends to retire in June after 23 years: A packed Reynolds Performing Arts Center had an idea of what was coming when University of Oklahoma President David L. Boren walked out to the podium without an introduction. The second-longest serving president in university history confirmed the rumors that were already circulating: he will retire at the end of the academic year, June 30, 2018. That is also contingent on finding a successor, Boren said, as he does not want to leave a vacancy in the position [Norman Transcript]. Oklahoma’s US Senators called Boren an Oklahoma institution [NewsOK]. Boren was hailed as one of state’s most accomplished leaders upon news of his retirement [KTUL].

Oklahoma has a second chance to get its budget right: Last month’s Supreme Court decision striking down a cigarette fee has opened a big hole in the state budget. But it also gives lawmakers a second chance to fix a budget that was not meeting the needs of Oklahomans even before the court’s ruling. The Legislature originally passed the cigarette fee as part of a last-ditch effort to fill Oklahoma’s nearly $1 billion budget shortfall and prevent even deeper cuts to our schools, health care, and other key services [David Blatt / Tulsa World].

Last-Ditch Effort By Republicans To Replace ACA: What You Need To Know: Republican efforts in Congress to “repeal and replace” the federal Affordable Care Act are back from the dead. Again. While the chances for this last-ditch measure appear iffy, many GOP senators are rallying around a proposal by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), along with Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) They are racing the clock to round up the needed 50 votes — and there are 52 Senate Republicans [Kaiser Health News].

Poll Shows Oklahomans Favor Controversial Tax At Heart Of Budget Debate: Days ahead of the recently called special legislative session, new poll numbers are citing a dominant majority of Oklahomans are in favor of a controversial tax at the heart of this year’s budget debates. The poll, put out by the Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance, shows 67 percent of Oklahomans are in favor of raising the Gross Production Tax (GPT) on oil and gas production from two percent to seven percent [News 9]. Ending tax breaks for oil and gas companies is one of many good revenue options for special session [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Democrats eyeing statewide vote to raise oil, gas tax rate: After repeated calls to raise the tax rate on oil and gas production to 7 percent, Democrats in the Oklahoma House said they might next push for a statewide vote. Raising the tax rate is part of House Democrats’ own budget plan, but despite pressure from both inside and outside the Capitol, Republican leadership has rejected those ideas [NewsOK].

Prosperity Policy: Had enough? “How’s it going?” I asked my friend Sheelagh. “Terrible,” she said. “My sister is leaving Tulsa for Houston. Quitting her job, saying goodbye to family, and packing it in. The thing is, she’s always been the optimistic one – working for nonprofits, helping the least fortunate, certain that things in Oklahoma will get better. But she’s had enough.” It’s a message we hear more and more: Oklahomans have had enough [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Let down and locked up: Why Oklahoma’s female incarceration is so high: The state imprisons 151 out of every 100,000 women, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics – more than double the national rate. In partnership with The Frontier, an Oklahoma journalism startup, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting spent more than a year unearthing the causes. The reporting included obtaining a decade’s worth of state prison data never before analyzed by the state itself. The most common reason women end up in prison: drug possession [Reveal].

Prison overcrowding relief plan: Send some home: Department of Corrections officials plan to take matters into their own hands as the agency’s funding problems become more evident. The state’s prisons are constantly over capacity. The most recent weekly count report, published Aug. 21, indicates state prisons are operating at 107 percent of capacity, with nearly 20,000 people in the system. That is excluding private prisons, which house about 7,000 people. Even more are being monitored outside prison walls. About 34,000 Oklahomans are under community supervision, which includes probation and parole [Journal Record].

Women’s incarceration panel bars none from conversation: Nothing beats a face-to-face conversation. Criminal justice reform and incarceration rates have been at the political forefront for years. Statewide campaigns have implemented permanent change to lower sentences for drug possession. Lawmakers at 23rd and Lincoln have pushed their polarized opinions on it, even though those conversations sometimes were forced to occur outside of formal settings when bills didn’t get committee hearings. Discourse exists, but not always in the same room [Journal Record]. Gov. Fallin spoke at the event as well [NewsOK].

How does SQ 788 compare to other states’ medical marijuana laws? Next year, Oklahomans will vote on State Question 788, a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana. As of 2017, 29 states have approved measures legalizing the drug for medical purposes. We often think of legalization in binary terms — either medical marijuana is allowed, or it isn’t — but in practice, the systems put in place by those 29 states to regulate the drug vary greatly. Each state has many choices to make about how patients can be prescribed marijuana, how much they can have, and where they get it from [OK Policy]. 

Oil association report points to hundreds of economically damaged wells: At least 450 older vertical wells in Kingfisher County alone have been damaged economically because of bigger horizontal wells in the area, according to an interim report by vertical producers. The Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance released the interim study last week, saying it indicates that the older wells have experienced widespread well bashing and that damage has cost producers and royalty owners throughout the state [NewsOK].

Teacher reassignments will affect dozens of schools: More than 40 schools in the Oklahoma City district will be affected by pending teacher transfers, officials said Wednesday. An undisclosed number of teachers are being reassigned because of lower-than-projected enrollments. As of Tuesday, 38,800 students were enrolled in the district — about 1,100 fewer than the number of students enrolled on the same date last year, officials said [NewsOK].

Education Leaders Push For OKC Income Tax Raise Vote: The OKC bond election is over and now voters are once again being asked to take action. The school board for Oklahoma City Public Schools is hoping to get residents who are willing to pay for better schools. “When you really look at it, people are wanting to pay taxes,” says OCPS School Board Chair Paula Lewis [News 9].

Deaf man shot, killed by police in SE OKC Tuesday: An Oklahoma City police officer is on paid administrative leave after he shot and killed a deaf man Tuesday night. Police spokesman Capt. Bo Mathews said Magdiel Sanchez, 35, was shot and killed about 8:15 p.m. at a home in the 220 block of SE 57 after he allegedly approached officers with a pipe. Mathews said the shooting started after police had been notified of a hit-and-run wreck near SE 57 and Shields Boulevard [NewsOK]. Advocates expressed disappointment and the need for police departments to better understand the needs of the deaf community [Fox 25].

Quote of the Day

“[A bipartisan agreement to raise new revenues] could provide for a teacher pay raise and reverse some of the cuts to foster care families, senior nutrition, and mental health. On the other hand, doing nothing and allowing our state to fall even further behind is a real possibility, if partisan differences and ideological rigidity are allowed to stand in the way of practical solutions. It’s up to all of us who care about the health and prosperity of Oklahoma to tell our elected representatives that this outcome is unacceptable.”

– OK Policy Executive Director David Blatt, urging legislators to strike a grand bargain on the budget to raise revenue from a wide range of Oklahomans and invest in critical services (Source)

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s average annual growth rate for inflation-adjusted personal income over the past decade.

Source: Pew Charitable Trusts

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note 

How putting fewer people on probation and parole can reduce prison populations, save money and keep us safer: How can we have fewer people under supervision and more public safety? Well, for one thing, research has shown that supervising people who present a low risk of re-arrest actually makes them more likely to get re-arrested. In part this is because heavy-handed supervision can jeopardize jobs, and reporting in at probation offices means contact with clients who have more serious criminal records. And in part it is because if you watch almost anyone more closely, you can find excuses to re-arrest them [Marshall Project].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

One thought on “In The Know: OU President Boren intends to retire in June after 23 years

  1. The REVEAL article buries the lede in any analysis of why and how OK’s overincarceration, generally and of females in particular, occurs. The “good DA” Prater, the one who gets appointed to “reform” task forces, provides the fundamental explanation for the extreme possibilities inherent in OK sentencing, which lead to the longer times served. Despite the evidence in this article describing why harsh convictions are the problem, not the solution, Prater’s major concern, voiced for decades now by all OK DAs when confronted, is that the DAs’ standard performance measure–convictions–will be harmed by reforms such as those discussed. IOW, greater public safety and more effective rehab are at best secondary (not even, actually) to the DAs’ ability to chalk up their wins, confirming in their minds the comic book stories they have of themselves as archangels wreaking justice. That their archangel image is self-anointed and their impacts were catalogued in the movie “Hancock” is beyond their comprehension. If the “good DA” is a victim of such delusions, then DA involvement in real OK criminal justice reform is by definition self-defeating. Until that becomes recognized and documented by organizations such as REVEAL, this story will continue being told as it has been for going on 3 decades now. But REVEAL will still have a reason to exist 3 decades hence, so there is that.

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